Deciphering Dining at Ohio State

Now that you’ve had a few weeks under your belt as a first-year student at Ohio State, hopefully, you’ve used your meal plan at least once or twice.

Have you finally cracked the code to the seemingly overwhelming mess of dining dollars, BuckID cash, swipes, and visit exchanges? Have you discovered the perfect way to use your swipes and dollars each week?

No? Still confused? Don’t worry, I like to consider myself pretty savvy when it comes to budgeting and dietary needs, but even I had trouble understanding at first. Luckily for you, I’m here to show you what I wish I had known dining at Ohio State throughout my first year.

First, the Basics: Dining Dollars, BuckID Cash, and Swipes

  • Dining Dollars can be used at any student dining services locations. They are intended to give you added flexibility in what you eat and where. By using dining dollars you get a 35% discount on your purchase. Even better, they roll over every semester you are enrolled.
  • BuckID Cash can be used at any merchant that accepts BuckID both on and off-campus. This is not just restricted to food purchases. Use your ‘Ohio State’ app to look at all the available merchants.
  • Swipes (all-you-care-to-eat visits) give you access to any of the three Traditions Dining locations (Scott, Morrill, and Kennedy).
  • Visit exchanges involve exchanging a swipe for a monetary amount. At most dining locations, it is $8 to one swipe, but at C-Stores it is $5 to one swipe. For example, if I were to spend $7.50 at Union Market, instead of using Dining Dollars or BuckID cash, I could use one swipe to pay.

Now that you know what each component of a plan is, how do you choose which plan is best for you? Gray 10, Scarlet 14, or Unlimited? 

  • Gray 10, at $2,025, will give you 10 swipes each week, $200 Dining Dollars, and $150 BuckID cash.
  • Scarlet 14, at $2,412, will give you 14 swipes each week, $200 Dining Dollars, and $150 BuckID cash.
  • Unlimited, at $1,976, will give you unlimited swipes to any Traditions locations, and $100 Dining Dollars.

When I was first deciding my meal plan, I scoffed at Gray 10, thinking that it could never feed me, so I chose Scarlet 14. A few weeks into the semester, I found myself routinely having at least seven swipes left at the end of each week. So, in my second semester, I decided to switch to Gray 10, which was much more suitable for my daily intake. The meal plan that will work best for you is just that – the meal plan that will work best for you. If you choose a meal plan you’re unsatisfied with, there is a grace period each semester where you can change it – you can’t drop down to a less expensive meal plan after the second Friday of the term, but you can always bump up to a bigger plan at any time.

Alright, you’ve learned about and chosen your meal plan, and now you’re absolutely dying to know what my top 3 dining locations are, right? 

  1. The MarketPlace on Neil. In my opinion, it has the best and most versatile menu. Anything from breakfast sandwiches and coffee to sushi to oven-fired pizza.
  2. Sloopy’s Diner. If you’re craving some late-night classic diner food, Sloopy’s has got you covered.
  3. Courtside Cafe. Located in the RPAC, if you’re looking for some versatile, healthier options after a workout (or anytime), this is your best bet!

Okay, but what about dietary restrictions?

Many students at Ohio State must navigate the dining services with dietary restrictions! Although common allergies and dietary preferences are posted on menus and in Traditions, in my opinion, the best way to view ingredients is to use NetNutrition. This web tool allows you to view updated menus, nutritional facts, and filter by allergies and dietary preferences.

Struggling to find balance or what works best for you nutritionally? 

As important as it is to simply understand dining plans, it’s also important to take care of yourself. If you feel like you need some additional guidance as far as meals and eating on-campus, the best advice I could possibly give is to check out the Student Wellness Center in the RPAC. They offer free, personalized nutritional education and coaching.

Hopefully, you’ve now mastered dining at Ohio State, and if not, trust that you will soon! It’s confusing, it takes time, and it takes practice. Luckily, you get to practice multiple times a day.

Eat healthy, drink plenty of water, and as always, Go Bucks!

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